COURT REPORTER CAREER /JOB DESCRIPTION
- Typically require a 2 to 4 year postsecondary degree.
- Employment growth due to need of realtime and broadcast captioning and translating.
- Individuals with certification have the greatest career outlook.
DEFINITION AND NATURE OF WORK
Court reporters create verbatim transcripts of legal proceedings, speeches, meetings, and even conversations using several methods to ensure that the spoken word is accurately recorded.
Court reporters may use their skills to make closed-captioning and realtime translating services available to the deaf and hard-of-hearing.
Stenotyping (machine shorthand) and voice writing (Stenomask*) are the two main types of court reporting. In stenotyping, all records are made by using a stenotype machine. The stenotype machine permits a stenotypist to depress several keys at one time to note combinations of letters that signify whole phrases, words, or individual sounds. These combinations are then downloaded into computers, translated against each individual reporter’s shorthand dictionary and the file is then edited by the reporter to produce the final transcript or document which is then printed, bound and delivered to the requesting party.
When realtime reporting is required, the stenotype machines are directly connected to a computer which immediately displays the typed symbols as text on the screen. This process is also referred to as CART, communications access real-time translation. CART is often used in courts, classrooms, and official meetings. It is also used by the hearing-impaired on closed-captioned television.
Besides transcribing proceedings, court reporters are also required to generate and keep a computer dictionary of the stenographic symbols or voice recordings that they translate to text. This dictionary should be customized with words or terminology that will be used during the proceedings they will be transcribing. After the proceedings, court reporters must proofread their record or the computer translation. They make certain that the grammar is correct, names and places are accurate, and that the information is understandable. Their responsibilities also include preparing the transcripts and copying them. It is important that a court reporter develop a system of easy storage and retrieval of their records. If requested, court reporters must provide information from the transcripts they prepare to courts, attorneys, judges, other parties and the public.
Court reporting careers are not limited to the courtroom. Court reporters may work in attorney’s offices making a verbatim record of depositions, meetings, or other gatherings. Government agencies, from the U.S. Congress to state or local governments also have a need for those with stenotyping skills. Court reporters that work captioning television programs for those with hearing impairments are called stenocaptioners. Stenocaptioners caption news programs, emergency alerts, sports programs, and other shows for both television networks and cable stations.
While most official court reporters have a normal 40-hour work week, those that freelance or are self-employed are able to work hours they set themselves which may include nights, weekends, or odd hours.
COURT REPORTING CAREER TRAINING AND JOB QUALIFICATIONS
Depending on the type of reporting being done, the required training may vary from less than a year (for voice writing) to nearly three years for stenotyping. Someone who is interested in a career as a court reporter can receive training from many postsecondary vocational and technical schools and colleges located throughout the United States.
The National Court Reporters Association (NCRA) requires that students are able to record a minimum of 225 words a minute, which is also required by the federal government as well. There are about 82 NCRA approved training programs in the U.S.
Different states have different requirements. For example, some states require that court reporters be notary publics. Other states may require that a court reporter pass a certification test administered by their state board of examiners, providing a reporter the “Certified Court Reporter” (CCR) or “Certified Shorthand Reporter” (CSR) title.
Upon passing a four-part exam, and also taking required continuing education classes, the NCRA gives entry-level court reporters the designation “Registered Professional Reporter” (RPR). This designation is done on a voluntary basis, but provides those that acquire it a certain level of distinction.
If desired a court reporter may continue to enhance his or her certification and expertise by achieving the position of a “Registered Merit Reporter” (RMR) or the highest level of certification, the “Registered Diplomate Reporter” (RDR). To achieve this level, five successive years of work as an RMR must be completed or one must be an RMR and have a four-year baccalaureate degree.
There are other designations used to distinguish and promote those with specialized skills in translating the spoken word into text immediately. These are the “Certified Realtime Reporter” (CRR), the “Certified Broadcast Captioner” (CBC), and the “Certified CART Provider” (CCP).
Good listening skills are essential to becoming a successful court reporter. In addition to capturing the spoken word, court reporters must identify the speakers and describe any pertinent physical actions in the room (such as the witness who stands up mid-sentence and walks out of the room).
Court reporters must be skilled in grammar, vocabulary, and punctuation. They should be able to spell the names of people, places, and events exactly as they are spoken in the proceeding. In the courtroom it is imperative that the reporter understand legal terminology. They should know criminal and appellate procedure. Court reporters should also have knowledge of computer technology and hardware, as computers play an important role in their career.
There are many opportunities for court reporters to progress in their careers by continuing their education and by gaining relevant experience. Court reporters may achieve administrative, management or consulting positions, or may even become teachers in their field.
JOB AND EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITIES
Court reporter employment is expected to grow at the same rate as other careers through 2012. There is a persistent demand for court reporters due to the need for closed-captioning for the hearing impaired for television programs as well as the need for other realtime translating services. There is also increasing demand for more court reporters as over time fewer individuals have sought careers in this field.
Those that are deaf or are hearing impaired benefit greatly by those with court reporting skills, making the demand for these skills increase. Television closed-captioning, as of 2006, has been mandated by federal legislation. In addition, deaf or hearing-impaired students have the right to realtime translation of their college classes if they desire — as designated by the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Local courts, as well as federal and state courts, are not expected to expand because of budget constraints even though they have an increased workload, thereby limiting their need for court reporters. Some courts have tried to cut their spending by employing tape recorders or video cameras in place of court reporters. However, these options have a higher error rate and are unable to convert the spoken word into written text.
HISTORICAL EARNINGS INFORMATION
In 2002 court reporters earned an average annual income of $41,550. The top ten percent of court reporters reported earning more than $73,440 per year while the lowest ten percent earned less than $23,120.
Compensation for court reporting differs according to the certification level, experience, and the type of reporting being required. Compensation also varies in different regions in the nation. Official court reporters many times are paid a “per page” fee in addition to a salary. They may also increase their income by freelancing. Reporters that work in realtime translation are paid by the hour. If working for a captioning company as a stenocaptioner, the reporter is salaried and is given benefits. Freelance stenocaptioners are paid hourly. (Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor)
* Stenomask reporting has not been addressed in above info. Berman Court Reporting has no Stenomask court reporters.)